Sunday, April 19, 2015

This Can Only Happen So Many Times...

...before the suspect who is confronting a law enforcement officer (LEO) seriously wounds or kills the officer or an innocent bystander. Restraint may be seen as the politically correct thing, the religious or moral high ground, the compassionate thing to do. However, when it comes to someone unlawfully threatening a person with imminent serious bodily harm or death, and if that person believed there was virtually no chance for escape from the threat, that person (in my opinion) should not hesitate to shoot or otherwise incapacitate the attacker by use of another form of deadly physical force.

I can understand that law enforcement officers are second guessing themselves and second guessing the intentions of the bad guys. If it is true though that the officer in this particular case would have been fully justified to shoot the suspect, then he probably should have done so in my estimation. As per Police Chief Randy Harvey that was the case:

"This video footage, it eliminated all doubt that this officer would have been justified if in fact it came to a shooting." 

But the officer said:

"I wanted to be absolutely sure before I used deadly force."

Sadly, the only way to be absolutely sure that someone is going to use deadly force against you is to allow them to actually do so. So what the officer said, in my judgment, is that he possibly would wait until he is actually harmed, or at least shot at or attacked in some manner, before he fired back. The law (here in NY and in most states of which I am aware of self defense laws) does not require anyone to be absolutely sure before defending themselves with deadly force. You usually need to have a
reasonable belief or probable cause (or something similar depending on how the law is written) to believe that you are being threatened with imminent serious bodily harm or deadly force - no law I have ever seen relative to use of deadly force in self-defense or defense of a third party states that you must be absolutely sure of anything.

It's nice that the officer did not get hurt, it's nice he did not have to shoot anyone; its nice he has a clear conscience and does not have to live with weighing his decision whether he was right or wrong, to maybe have killed a man, for the rest of his life; it's nice the suspect was not injured or killed. It's all wonderful this time because this time the officer's guess, that flew in the face or reason, was right. God bless him for making the right call and let's hope it was because something indicated the suspect was not really about to attack and not because of being hesitant to use deadly force for no good reason. 

Perhaps all that gives some people that warm fuzzy feeling all over and that is all well and good. Bear in mind though, it is all well and good until the same officer, or another, is faced with the same decision, in a very similar set of circumstances when the suspect attacks and maims or kills the officer or an innocent third party because the officer hesitated or outright decided not use deadly force when it was justified. Using deadly force is a tough decision to be able to make but you must be able to make it when it is justified and called for and you must be able to arrive at that decision based upon probable cause or reasonable belief (whatever is required by law) if you want to survive. If you cannot base your decision upon probable cause, you should find another career. I am not saying this officer needs to seek new employment - please read what I wrote and not what you want to think I wrote. I am saying if you cannot do such - then you are not fit for LE work. This officer has to think about what happened and decide that for himself.

I am dead set against the excessive use of force by police or civilians. Yet, I also think it less than responsible not to use deadly force when it is justified. Why? Because, sooner or later, some other officer will probably do likewise and wind up regretting he did so, that is if he lives long enough. Not every suspect who charges you yelling "kill me" is trying to commit suicide by cop, some are taunting, some are daring, some are psychos, some are going to be trying to get you to second guess yourself to give themselves that split second advantage, due to your hesitation to defend yourself, that is all they need to kill you. I do not look forward to reading the story where that happens. So, if deadly force would have been absolutely justified in this case, as the police chief indicates, then I think it should have been used. The officer's decision though was his own, he is lucky he guessed right. Had I been in that situation as a LEO, I in all likelihood would have acted in another manner had I believed my life or the life of another innocent was in imminent danger. Remember, you do not need to wait until knowing for sure that deadly force is about to be used against you in order for you to use deadly force to defend yourself. You usually need reasonable belief or probable cause that such is imminent (and in some instances for civilians you also need to reasonably believe you cannot escape -  check the laws of your state or locality on what is required). Of course, if you do know for sure, you had best act quickly to defend yourself and any others so threatened. As it turned out the officer in question is being patted on the back and has been given high praise; sadly though, had he guessed wrong, he would have been carried on his back and given high praise too - at his funeral. It is a tough call to make but it has to be made if you want to live to see another day with any amount of certainty.

I foresee more stories like this one coming out since as of late LEOs have been under fire for excessive use of force. I think more of them are going to become trigger shy, at least the good ones who truly live up to their oaths of office and who do their jobs ethically and with respect for the law and the public at large. Note, I am not saying they should be trigger happy but an LE needs to be able to make the decision to use deadly force and needs to know that such a decision should almost always be based upon reasonable belief or probable cause as required by the law and not upon absolute certainty. The courts need to realize that too. Every time LEOs shoot someone they need to be held accountable under the law and rightly so but lately they are held accountable to a much higher degree than even the law provides for because they are being held accountable to the whims and second guessing of the political correctness of: politicians seeking to use anything they can to their own advantage,  race baiters, malcontents, police-haters, anarchists, ambulance and hearse chasing lawyers, and other opportunists of the moment who are more than ready and willing to take advantage of an LEO shooting a suspect even if it was undeniably justified. You only have to look the recent events of Fergusson, MO to see that. 

Of course, there are also way too many cases of police involved shootings wherein the officers use excessive force and were not justified in using doing so. Prudent and just application of the law though is what is required to address those situations after the fact; there is no call for the lynch mob mentality that we have witnessed all too often. BUT - there must be prudent and just application of the law in each and every case and it must be transparent and completely open to public review. If we hung the bastards who resort to deadly force when not called for under the law, whether a LEO or not, and praised and rewarded those who use it, LEO or not, to justifiably stop a deadly threat, we would be much better off as a society.

All the best,
Glenn B

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